The lobby chair had a comforting material that Sam couldn’t quite identify; it felt like a kind of faux-Linoone fur (at least, Sam hoped it was faux). It was so soft that, where it touched Sam’s skin, he couldn’t feel any particular strand of it—it just all blended into one wash of luxury against him. The chair coddled him and relaxed him and urged him to be one with it and to never leave it. But as he nervously glanced around the lobby of the Phoenix Shipping Corporation Building in Canalave City, Sam couldn’t help but worry that he was making a large mistake.
If there was any plus at all, it was that the ferry ride to Canalave had been much less troubling than it had been previously. Sam’s mind was too overburdened with worry to care much for the tossing of the ship in the strait. Hours previously, he had sneaked out of Professor Rowan’s home in the middle of the night while the rest of the guests were sound asleep following the celebratory dinner. Leaving after everyone else dozed off—even Barry, who kept insisting everyone stay up to play board games—was easy enough when Sam knew that he couldn’t have fallen asleep himself even he had been drugged. After escaping the lab, it was an easy enough chore to call a cab that would take him to the ferry. Sam could not explain it, but the cab ride had simultaneously been both the longest and shortest rides of his life.
His mind had never stopped going. The legends had somehow revived Tommy; they’d done what human science had repeatedly told him was out of their hands. And it was effortless! They had repaired body and mind and spirit with as little as a short visit. Was that fair? Sam wrestled with the question. There were people the world over who lived in pain or poverty or despair, and these guardians revived Tommy Stark solely because Sam had asked them. What about everyone else? Weren’t they entitled to that, as well? And if they were, that could only mean that Henrique Alonzo was on a righteous quest after all. He had seen for society what Sam had been too selfish to see for anyone but himself.
He shifted his weight in the welcoming chair and pressed harder into his concerns. His previous encounters with Alonzo had been so alarming. He kidnapped Barry, for god’s sake! This were simply not the action of good man, was it? And yet, he had good reason to dislike Barry for all the thoughtless attacks on Phoenix property. It could have been more than dislike; he might have seen Barry as a legitimate threat to his own safety.
Sam fidgeted again; the chair was luxurious, but the morning sunbeam striking the back of his head through the panel windows was not. The warmth was squeezing the sweat from his body. Or maybe he’d been sweating ever since he landed on Canalave…
“Mr. Stark,” the receptionist called out from behind her desk. She was putting down the receiver of a phone he hadn’t even realized had rung. “Mr. Alonzo will see you now. He said he is sorry for the delay.”
Sam nodded, finding his jaw muscles too belligerent to move. He stepped toward the elevator before being corrected by the secretary. “I’m sorry, not that way, Mr. Stark.” He turned, and she was motioning down a hallway to the right he hadn’t ventured down in any of his previous trips to the building. “He’s this way. It’s Large Conference Room Two. You’ll see it on your right. Thank you again for your patience.”
Sam tilted his head and bobbed his eyebrows in agreement; it was just as well that Henrique had a new meeting area. Sam wasn’t sure he knew how to get the elevator to stop at platform nine and three-quarters or whatever it was, anyway.
To the receptionist’s credit, he did see the meeting room right away; it was hard to miss, what with the walls being transparent glass. Sam tapped on one of the panes gently, and Mr. Alonzo waved him in. He swallowed and turned the nob.
“Mr. Stark, this is quite a surprise. Please, have a seat. I’m sure you don’t mind these accommodations for this visit? After our last… talk, I was thinking perhaps something a bit more open and visible would be best for… well, for all of us.”
Sam found himself embarrassed at the implication that he posed a threat to Mr. Alonzo if they met in more secluded quarters. He pulled out a chair so he could take a seat at the oval desk and wished that his jaw would release so that he could explain himself.
He was caught off-guard by the sight of someone else in the room; Sam had been so focused on Mr. Alonzo that he hadn’t taken a more studied look around, but to Mr. Alonzo’s left sat another gentleman who seemed much more interested in his own thick, purple book than Sam and Henrique. The man was not looking up for Sam to get much of a look at him, but he had long arms that seemed as though they were rather large under his blazer, and his hair was a curiously blue shade of gray, not unlike a young, female Nidoran.
“When we last met, Mr. Stark, I told you I would introduce you to someone. This is my brother, Mr. Mentené.”
Sam nodded as he found his voice. “Nice to meet… you?” His attention turned back to Mr. Alonzo even as Mr. Mentené waved lazily in reply, “Your brother has a different name than you?”
Henrique’s head sank slightly. “My brother and I have only his mother and my father in common, I am afraid. We were not raised together; his mother… ‘knew’ my father while vacationing in Hoenn. We would see each other infrequently at best as we grew up in separate regions. I’m sure you can understand how hard it all was for my mother. On odd summers, I would get to visit him; on even ones, he would visit us. It was…,” his voice quieted, “I’m sure my family’s dysfunction doesn’t interest you. He’s part of—he’s the reason I’m so well-versed in Sinnohan culture.”
Sam noticed Mr. Mentené nodding in agreement at Henrique’s words, but still not looking up from his book. “Does he… is he mute or something?”
Mr. Mentené shot him a side-eye look from his book, but Mr. Alonzo responded quickly. “No, Mr. Stark. He’s just very studious. And perhaps,” Henrique curled one side of his mouth and looked towards his brother, “a bit impolite.”
Sam shrugged in agreement, and Mr. Alonzo changed the subject, “You didn’t seem very interested in speaking to me again previously, Sam. What brings you here today?”
Sam rolled his eyes, hoping he was discreet in doing so; for what felt to him like the fiftieth time since arriving in Sinnoh, he was about to admit to someone else that he was wrong about something. It seemed like the kind of thing that should have gotten easier, but if anything, he was finding the opposite to be true; he really didn’t want to have to tell Mr. Alonzo he regretted their last interaction. His jaw gave him just a bit of leeway, and Sam found himself telling Henrique all about the last few days. He told him about Tommy’s visit to the prison and the revelation that the legends had gone to heal Tommy following the confrontation in Celestic Town. He found himself admitting aloud a thought he had not even consciously been aware of previously: that if not for Henrique directing him to Celestic Town, Sam might never have met with the pokemon that would go on to cure Tommy. As Mr. Alonzo, his chin resting on his knuckles, studied Sam, the latter stated the realization he had come to around the dinner table at Rowan’s lab.
There was silence between them all, and by the end of Sam’s tale of his last few days, even Mr. Mentené was watching Sam. Sam tried to grin harmlessly at him, but he found Mr. Mentené’s gaze to be too disconcerting and settled for simply looking back at Henrique. He steeled himself for the gloating he was sure to come.
“Mr. Stark, I had no idea. I am…,” he paused and wrinkled the bridge of his nose before continuing, “positively thrilled for you that your brother has been returned. That is… there are no words I could express that would be fair to what you are—what you must be feeling. This is the best news I’ve heard all day.”
“I… yeah, it’s, you know. Good. Thanks?” Sam was taken aback by Mr. Alonzo’s words, and his reaction to them was unprepared.
“To think that I had some role, even a small one—even a coincidental one—in helping return your brother to you. That is—wow. I’m happy for you beyond words, Samuel.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty happy times all around,” Sam replied, even though his heart wasn’t in it. Of course he was happy that Tommy was back—he didn’t need this guy telling him to be—but Sam had almost wanted Mr. Alonzo was lord the realization over him. He wanted the President of the Phoenix Corporation to have his big “ah ha!” moment and to scold Sam for ever doubting him. He wanted him to be an absolute jerk about it and try to try to force Sam to thank him for taking him to the legends.
He wanted Mr. Alonzo, now that Sam was struggling with everything he thought he knew about him since he met the man, to remind him of why he once despised him.
Instead, the man was beaming with more joy than if Tommy had been his own. He pushed out from the desk and up to his feet. “You’ll have to excuse me; I’ve got to alert Nicole at the front desk. We must have a drink! A fine… white wine, I assume? Of course. Something memorable.”
“I don’t—no, that’s not… come on,” Sam jumped to his feet, as well. At that point, Mr. Alonzo was simply embarrassing him and in danger of missing his point. “I don’t want any of that. I didn’t come here to drink your wine, Mr. Alonzo. I didn’t come for some ‘I have a brother, and you have a brother, everybody gets a brother’ kind of thing. I just came to tell you…”
Sam sighed as Mr. Alonzo stopped short of the door of Large Conference Room Two. Sam lifted his head to look the man in the eye.
“You’re a dick. Like, I’m pretty sure you’re a huge dick. I mean, you kidnapped Barry which was just inexcusable. And, oh yeah, you somehow knew that Veilstone was going to be attacked before it was, which is really damn creepy—“
“In my position, I am privy to quite a bit on inf—“
Sam shook his head to stop him. “Seriously? I believe, like, ten percent of the words that come out of your mouth, man. I don’t want to know how you knew about it, and I wouldn’t believe you if you told me, anyway.” Sam rolled his tongue around in his mouth. Telling Mr. Alonzo off was fun, but it was just the easy part. The words to come next were bringing up bile with them as they plodded to his mouth. “But whatever your whole little shtick is, you were right about what legendary pokemon are capable of. And that’s—that is huge. Maybe the biggest thing that’s ever happened. Anywhere. This changes lives.”
“I am really not done telling you how great you are, and that’s really disgusting for me, so can you just keep yourself shut up for a little bit so I can just… ugh. Just get through this?”
Mr. Alonzo stood stoic for a moment, but then he nodded. Sam continued, “I don’t have anything left to offer you. I’m not going on TV to be some tool for you to sell out my brother and tell his story, okay? I’m not going to be your salesman. But you were right, and now this is a thing. The Jirachi’s out of the bottle. So yeah, I don’t have anything left that you might find helpful, but I want in. For a year, I shit on everything and everyone around me that wasn’t Tommy, and I acted like the only thing that mattered was getting him back. Well now he’s back, and you know how I feel? Awful. Guilty. Because now it’s more a ‘big picture’ kind of thing. Why me? An unconscionable number of people in this world are sick or hurt or dying or missing loved ones, and the guardians chose to fix up my problems? Just because I was a big enough ass to look for them and try to make them? I’m sure you in your ‘I do what I want, when I want because I’m Mr. frickin’ Alonzo’ world don’t get this, but I don’t want that on my head. If Tommy can be healed, then so can somebody else. Anybody else. Everybody else, I don’t know.”
There was silence between the two of them. From behind him, Sam heard Mr. Mentené turn another page in his book as he waited for Mr. Alonzo. Sam had done it, he had said what he’d come to say, and he’d done it all without throwing up over it. Whatever was next, it was all Henrique’s.
“I’m sorry, I was really just focusing on the part about my being a dick. Could you repeat the rest of it?”
Sam heaved his shoulders; that was the Mr. Alonzo he expected when he had arrived. “That’s it, I’m leaving.”
Alonzo set a calm hand on Sam’s shoulders, “Please don’t, I was just joking, of course. I thought you could use the levity; you’re taking a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, Mr. Stark. You needn’t feel so burdened. There’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be happy.”
“I am happy,” Sam said quietly.
Sam stepped back. “Yeah, okay Doctor Super Shrink, I’m happy. I’m happy! Of course I’m happy! My brother’s back, and I’m going to go save the world, don’t you remember? I’m the happiest person ever! Just… full-on rainbow happy!” He found at the end that he had raised his voice more than he had intended. His muscles were very tight again.
From behind Sam, there was the clearing of a throat. “You know, he could be—he could do it. The legends seem to favor him. They have a rapport with him.”
“S—Mr. Mentené, what are you saying?”
Sam turned to Mr. Alonzo’s brother, who had set his book down on the desk and was looking up at them now. The smile stuck to Mr. Mentené’s pale face reminded Sam of a Halloween mask he had worn once as a child; it was the first year his father let him dress up as something scary rather than as a pokemon or cartoon character. Sam chased the memory away to focus on the moment.
“I’m saying he should come with us. He’s our best shot at contact.”
Sam’s head ping-ponged back-and-forth between Henrique and his brother. “Come with you where? What’s happening? Where are you going?”
Mr. Mentené flipped his book back open and held out a page for Sam to see; Sam looked at it and saw a massive mountain ascending into a ceiling of clouds.